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After Surveilling Congressman, Intelligence Program Faces Investigation

April 16, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Congress will investigate a controversial intelligence-gathering program after officials within the National Security Agency said it may have overstepped its bounds in conducting electronic surveillance on Americans. According to a story first reported in the New York Times, officials with the Justice Department, along with NSA personnel, discovered the irregular activity during a regular review of the program.

DOJ staff discovered NSA had eavesdropped on domestic e-mails and telephone calls of Americans, though the surveillance is believed to have been done unintentionally. An example of the “overcollection” of information was the revelation that a member of Congress was spied on while overseas.

The problems, according to an NSA spokesman, are related to implementation of a new intelligence law passed last year. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 set new guidelines for electronic surveillance within the United States. The bill had three main provisions:

  • It made the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (of 1978) the exclusive standard for authorizing electronic surveillance.

  • It required a court order for the surveillance of any American who became a target for electronic surveillance, regardless of whether the person is in the U.S.

  • It required the FISA Court, a secret court established to conduct FISA oversight, to approve the removal of any American’s name that is inadvertently captured during electronic surveillance.

Personnel with the NSA and Justice said the program has been revised to comply with the law; they delayed a renewal of the program until those corrective steps were taken.

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  • Anonymous 04/17/2009 5:45am

    Thank goodness Congress has spies that work for them as independent an agency. If Plame hadn’t come forward and explained the NSA program where she worked on domestic intelligence like her dad, we’d all be spied on like her alumni lobbyists. Since CIA has moved to DoD in analysis, like languages, these problems shouldn’t happen anymore.

    The Office of OIG is now an independent agency and the DSS on their new five year contracts caught that mean CIA station chief doin’ wrong. They caught him right after the bill went through and it could’a been them Russians!

  • tipseyeyes 04/17/2009 3:07pm

    I dont understand why you would want to try and tie the CIA hands. I think that department would be better informed and would know what would work better. I dont think they need outsiders (congress, senate etc.) sticking their nose in. Especially when they dont really know what they are talking about. Leave the decisions to those with the experience!

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